The answer guides to these knowledge of Medical School questions have been put together by medics who have successfully navigated interviews at top Medical Schools. They’re included in our Mastering the Medical School Interview Guide that you get when you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.
Make sure you are using very up-to-date information because universities can change their course structure each year. For example, Cardiff now uses a variation on PBL called Case-Based Learning (CBL). Run through how the structure works — both generally and specifically at this university – and, crucially, why you think it is an excellent way to learn and why it would suit you very well.
Focus more on the positives of the course structure they use, rather than fixating on the negatives of other systems.
Some lecture-based advantages: Dissemination of information is more consistent from lectures, and you can be sure that the information is correct and relevant to the course and exams. It means that everybody receives the same body of material and is therefore on a level playing field for the exams.
Some PBL advantages: Working in teams and developing people skills are central to the medical profession, and PBL can be a good way to simulate this working style. The earlier you get used to working together in teams, with the challenges this can bring, the better.
Be aware of whether the Medical School does/does not offer dissection as part of the anatomy teaching, and be prepared to speak about the advantages of either approach.
First, you should know whether this is something done by the Medical School you’re applying to or not, and factor this into your thinking. On the positive side, it could be a good way to learn about the body, as plastic models and animations can only ever approximate anatomical structures. It also brings a certain gravity to anatomy teaching, and dissecting a real human body can be a very inspiring and humbling experience.
However, cadavers are not the only way to learn anatomy. Sometimes models can be helpful to generalise structures or represent things in a slightly different way that aids with learning of a particular structure.
Sometimes abstractions are the best way of learning about something, while seeing the real thing is the most effective way of understanding it. Therefore, a mix of cadaveric dissection and model-based teaching is probably a desirable thing.
Make it clear that you considered the type of teaching at the Medical School and how it is used, compared to various others. This is where your knowledge of Medical Schools is particularly important! If the course structure has not already been covered as a standalone question, explain why you think their course structure is a great fit for you.
Pick out any key unique selling points that make this university stand out, and explain why you think they are important. Once you have covered the course, you can talk about the extracurricular activities and societies at the university. A good approach is to say that you are looking for somewhere that offers excellence in teaching, as well as good opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Make it clear that you are passionate about their Medical School by saying something like “I would be delighted to have the chance to study here.’’
First, you need to know the process: what is the relationship between Medical Schools and their teaching hospitals, and how does this help improve your training towards becoming a Doctor. It is essential you know which hospitals are associated with the Medical School, what they are like and where they are. They aren’t always very close!
Therefore, you will be able to tell them you know that the school is associated with hospitals in x area, and you like the idea of being sent on placement to hospitals in that area. It is important as a Medical Student to get a window into as many parts of the NHS as possible, so being sent on placement to the various hospitals associated with this Medical School will be a good opportunity to do that.
Some universities, like Imperial, place a lot of emphasis on extra-curricular activity because it demonstrates you are a well-rounded candidate. If you are not interested in anything other than medicine, you may look too insular, so you should have thought about this and had a look at the societies available at the university.
If there is something that you already do, like playing a sport, then this will be a natural thing to bring up. If you can cite something specific about the university’s club (e.g. their achievements last year), that is a plus.
Example answer: I would like to get involved with the x (e.g. hockey) society because it has been a hobby of mine for some years, and I feel I could contribute to the university team who got to the semi-finals last year.
If you don’t have a society that’s a natural fit, show that you are proactive and open-minded by speaking about some things that you haven’t tried before but would like to try at university.
Example answer: I would like to try out x (e.g. karate) because I have not tried it before and I would really like to see if it is something I enjoy.
Example answer: I would like to learn x (e.g. Arabic) because it has always fascinated me, but I have never had the opportunity to pursue this before.
Places at Medical School are precious commodities for universities, and the courses are incredibly challenging. This question is designed to see if you have the self-awareness to recognise that things might go wrong – and that you know would deal with difficulty in the right way.
First of all, if you have done your research on the Medical School and know what pastoral care, learning support and peer support is on offer, then you are well placed to answer this question. You will want to structure your answer by saying something like this: “Well, of course who I approached for help would depend on the nature of the problem I was having and how long I had been experiencing the problem for. But for serious problems, I would probably…” And then run through an ordered list of the people who you would turn to.
For serious problems, you would typically speak to your personal tutor first (who will direct you to the most appropriate faculty member). Next would be the Course Director. Next would be the University Support team. You might also consider peer support (e.g. student peers or mentors) or asking the Students’ Union for support.
If you haven’t done any research and have no idea what support is offered by the university, say that your first reaction would be to speak to a member of the faculty and seek the help and support you felt you would need to get back on track. Then do your research for your next interview!
If you have experience of failure or difficulties studying (but have overcome them), then feel free to speak about them. It shows experience and resilience – but phrase it in the right way so that it doesn’t come across as a weakness (i.e. DON’T SAY: “Oh I always seem to struggle with everything at first…”).
Your answer should aim to show an interest in the local area where you will be based as a medical student and will be likely to interact with patients on placements. It is a good idea to comment on prevalent diseases in the local population. For example, in East London, there is a high prevalence of tuberculosis.
You may wish to speak about how the health of the local population is affected. Are there a string of fast food outlets and lack of healthy alternatives available in the local area? Can you briefly explain how this kind of diet affects people’s health?
If the Medical School or associated teaching hospitals have been involved in any public health campaigns recently, mention them and how you think they will aim to improve the health of local people. Is there a trend that is clear to see? You may wish to comment on people becoming healthier or a decline in health. Are there any cultural factors involved? People from different backgrounds have different approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Interacting with a diverse population with different health conditions is useful in the training and experience of a medical student and Doctor. Mention how this is likely to make you a better doctor in future.
If you have met a patient with a condition that is typical of the local population to the Medical School, you may wish to reflect on that experience.
The best candidates will be honest in their response and thoroughly explore what they learnt from speaking to current/former medical students from that particular university. This may include a mix of the academic and non-academic aspects of the course they learnt about, or the university experience and medical course in general. Candidates should communicate that speaking to current medical students provided them with a realistic insight into the course and solidified their decision to study medicine there.
What did the medical students say about how challenging the course is? Did they address topics such as time management, organisation, the transition from A-levels/international baccalaureate, etc?
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